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Briefly Scouting Adolis Garcia

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Taking a gander at the Cardinals’ newest international acquisition.

St Louis Cardinals Photo Day
Pictured: a Cuban bargain.
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Cards made a bit of a surprise move this past Friday, signing a Cuban outfielder to a minor league deal. The outfielder in question is Jose Adolis Garcia, more commonly known as Adolis, and younger brother of Braves’ third baseman Adonis Garcia.

It was a bit of a surprise move because Garcia had been a free agent since December and had not really had his name connected to the Cardinals much at all up until the moment the news broke. Of course, that’s generally the way the Cards’ front office prefers things to work if at all possible, but that still means it’s a surprise anytime they actually do make a move.

It’s not a big contract, by any means; Garcia received just a $2.5 million signing bonus, and the contract itself appears to be a pretty standard minor league deal. In other words, there’s really no risk here of any sort, as the Redbirds aren’t tying themselves to the player long term, and didn’t pay him enough that it would be tough to cut ties and walk away if things don’t go well.

So let’s take a look at what kind of player the Cards may have just purchased, shall we?

First off, let me say that I’m not super familiar with Garcia. I’ve been aware of him, I know the name, and I had some idea of who he was and what tools he brought to the table since roughly the time he came on the market. Actually, slightly before that; I knew Adonis Garcia had a younger brother who was more highly thought of as an athlete, if not necessarily as a baseball player, but not until Adolis became a free agent did I take any deeper a look than that. And admittedly, not that deep even then; I can only pay attention to so many players, and Garcia wasn’t one who really caught my eye right off the bat.

That being said, since Friday I’ve done a bit of digging, emailed the very few contacts I do have within the industry, and have just enough of an opinion on Garcia to write him up in my standard style.

So what’s so great about this guy?

I will start by giving you the scouting report, slightly rewritten to include things like conjunctions, which scouts tend to leave out entirely when talking about baseball players, which was sent to me by the only contact I have who had really seen Garcia play. I was hoping for a couple opinions on him, but got a little unlucky this time and was only able to draw in one pair of eyes. So you get me and one other opinion, and that’s it.

He’s a little bit of an all or nothing hitter. Seems okay against velocity, but hangs himself out to dry on offspeed stuff. He can run, though. I’ve got times home to first that put him at a 55, maybe a 60 runner. It plays better in the field and he’s got a shot to make an impact defensively. Not sure he’s going to hit, and he’s a backup for me.

So....yeah. Not necessarily an impact player, but there are some tools. Now I’m going to do that thing that I usually do, and turn a one paragraph scouting report I happen to almost entirely agree with (spoiler alert), into a thousand words or so.

But first, let’s take a look at some video. First, a highlight/scouting video from a youtube account I’ve used before, and really wish I could get in touch with to than for so many great videos on Cuban and international talent. Sadly, my Japanese is probably kindergarten level (at best), and my Korean doesn’t exist. (The characters look Korean to me, but I can’t be sure of my ability to identify the language for sure. Maybe Tuning in from Korea could help me out?) So, I’ll just have to hope the gentleman in question gets some karmic benefit from my gratitude.

Huh. Well, it seems as if embedding is disabled for the video in question, which reduces my gratitude slightly. But, still, here’s a link. It’s worth watching.

We also have a shorter clip posted after the Cardinals signed Garcia.

via Baseball America:

Okay, so first off, we have an interesting difference in the videos. In the earlier international highlights, Garcia hits with his front foot up on the toe, which is a not uncommon setup among Cuban players. I’m not trying to generalise, but I’ve seen more of that setup in Cuba than elsewhere, leading me to think it might just be one of those small eccentricities that crops up there, similar to the way we see the running start a la Ichiro in Asian hitters far more often than elsewhere.

Personally, I’m not a fan of hitters starting off up on their toe like that; I like to see a hitter as balanced as possible in his setup, allowing him to initiate his swing from an athletic, strong position. Hitters who start on the toe tend to start their swings early, it seems to me. The good news, at least from my perspective, is that the more recent video of Garcia posted by BA (which is from 2015), has him a little less up on his toe.

Anyhow, here’s what I like about the swing: Garcia shows good bat speed, and an ability to take the ball to the opposite field. I’m a little surprised my scouting friend singled out Garcia’s approach on offspeed stuff as an issue; watching him take the ball the other way I would have expected him to be better at staying back and waiting. Then again, the Cuban leagues right now are extremely velocity bereft, from what I understand, and perhaps Garcia being unaccustomed to hitting against top-level fastballs forces him to cheat when he does, and thus more vulnerable to pitchers capable of changing speeds.

What I don’t love about Garcia’s swing is what looks to me like an inconsistent trigger mechanism; I would like to see him add some sort of timing-based trigger to his swing, perhaps a small leg kick or something of the sort, to get his hand load started more uniformly from swing to swing. If he were to come into camp and hang out with Aledmys Diaz, picking up some swing cues from the Cardinal shortstop wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, at all. I also don’t love how vertically oriented Garcia’s bat is at address; a guy who starts off with the bat up like that is going to swing down into the ball more often than not, and there’s some of that going on with Adolis as well.

I expect moderate power from Garcia; he looks physically able to hit for power, but the swing looks better gap to gap from my perspective. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him hit a lot of doubles, but I’m not sure there’s much over the fence potential here.

I don’t have enough to go on to say much about his contact ability; he struck out more than you want to see in Cuba, considering how tough the translation in terms of pitching is right now, but that opposite field stroke gives me some hope Garcia is capable of letting the ball travel to him and not overcommit, which is one of the things that stands out to me as a big red flag when evaluating hitters. I don’t know how he’ll handle big velocity here in the states, but again, that ability to let the ball get deep and take it to right center is a big checkmark in his favour in my book.

On the non-hitting side of things, I do like the speed. He moves well both on the bases and in the field, and I can see putting a 60 on the run tool. Well, maybe a 60; a 55 is probably more where I would scout him, but he’s moving pretty well. I don’t have nearly enough to go on to speak much to the arm or the glove, but both get solid reviews pretty consistently, so I’ll agree with the consensus that there could be some defensive impact potential with Garcia.

Put it all together and you have a picture of an intriguing player that I see as having a best fit as a fourth outfielder. It’s possible there’s enough offensive upside to make Garcia a starting caliber player; he did win an MVP award in Cuba, after all. But, from my perspective, I see Garcia either toning down the swing slightly to take better advantage of his all-fields ability and not offering quite enough power to profile as a starter, or swinging for power and struggling to make enough contact to succeed at all. Personally, I would rather see him go the contact route, as I think he has a better shot that way.

A lot of what will determine Garcia’s potential value will be how tough a position he can handle. He’s played the infield before, both second and third base, but appears to have settled in pretty much exclusively as an outfielder since then. He looks like he could be an above-average defender in a corner spot, but the big question will likely be whether he can play center or not. If he can handle center field at a solid level — and I think he has the speed to do it — then there’s a real path to contributing for Garcia. If, on the other hand, the raw speed doesn’t translate into defensive quality, then I see him having a much tougher time fitting onto a major league roster.

Overall, I could see Adolis Garcia emerging as a guy with a 45-50 hit tool, 40-45 power, and 55 speed. That’s a potentially very useful player. The arm is probably a 60 from what I’ve heard, which is nice, but outfielder arms have less of an impact than we would like to think. Guys with rifle arms are fun to watch, but the level of fun they provide doesn’t translate to value nearly as well. As I said before, the grade on the glove is going to make a big difference in what Garcia could be. If he’s a 50-55 defender in center and a 60 in a corner, the Cardinals have probably pulled themselves a really interesting bargain. If he’s a 50-55 in a corner and can’t handle center, he could still be a useful extra outfielder, but the bat may not be good enough to roster him in the majors as a corner-only defender.

In the end, though, I love the signing of Adolis Garcia. The chances of him turning into even a high-quality fourth outfielder are not in slam dunk territory, but $2.5 million and a minor league contract represents such a low risk investment that there’s virtually no downside. We pretty consistently clamour around these parts for the Cardinals to make moves to pick up talent when it costs money only, and this is exactly the sort of move they should be making. It’s almost certainly not going to pay off to any huge degree, but for half a Wiggington and a minor league roster spot, the Cards bought a scratch off ticket that could represent a solid depth piece. Garcia may not be a great player, but under the circumstances he seems to me like a great investment.